Netflix continues its streak of gripping true-crime dramas with the latest series, “Griselda,” starring Sofia Vergara. The show explores the life of Griselda Blanco, a notorious drug lord who held Miami in the palm of her hand throughout the ’70s and ’80s.1 With recent hits like the Andes plane crash saga and a true crime documentary akin to ‘Gone Girl,’ Netflix has once again proved it owns the real-life storytelling genre.
Sofia Vergara’s standout performance of the titular character is what makes “Griselda” shine brightest. Viewers and critics alike sing praises for her powerful performance, with many suggesting she deserves an Emmy for her role, or at least a nomination. Fans flocked to social media, hailing both her transformation and the show’s overall complexity and brutality.
Vergara, known most prominently for her role in “Modern Family”, truly displays her range in this very different character. Lucy Mangan from The Guardian commends the entire cast, emphasizing the series as “a well-paced and visually stunning showcase for Vergara”.
The Real vs Fictional Giselda
While “Griselda” continues to captivate audiences with its intense storytelling, it’s important to know what’s true and what’s more of a “creative licensing” situation. With the series introducing elements like Griselda’s involvement in her husbands’ deaths, the character Carla, and Jorge “Rivi” Ayala-Rivera’s phone sex scandal, viewers have questioned the accuracy of it all.2
The series takes a deep dive into Griselda Blanco’s dark history. In reality, she is inly suspected of planning the murders of her first two husbands and was only linked to the death of her third. The show does accurately represent these events, mirroring the unsettling reality of Griselda’s life.
Sofía Vergara's physical performance of Griselda is a world away from her character on Modern Family. Here's how she did it: pic.twitter.com/wRkPhwlm46— Netflix (@netflix) January 29, 2024
One character that has garnered attention in the show is Carla, a sex worker closely associated with Griselda’s illicit activities. While Carla is pure creative licensing, the series meshes real-life figures like June Hawkins, a crucial player in bringing down Griselda’s drug empire, to make the new additions flow effortlessly with he story.
That said, the bizarre yet true tale of Jorge “Rivi” Ayala-Rivera’s phone sex scandal also unfolds in the series. Rivi, once Griselda’s trusted hitman, testified against her but saw his credibility shattered due to his scandalous indiscretions. “Griselda” does accurately portrays this turn of events, so it may be said that the peculiarity of the actual story makes folding in small tidbits a bit easier.
Griselda’s Net Worth and Criminal Empire
The allure of Griselda’s criminal empire extends beyond the screen, as viewers were quick to look up the real Griselda Blanco’s financial success. Before she died in 2012, she had amassed a staggering net worth of $2 billion (not adjusted for inflation), making her one of the most successful figures in the drug trade.3 The magnitude of her influence and the riches she gained cannot and were not understated in the show.
The show does take a good position in being a powerful female figure overshadowed by her male counterparts.4 Blanco was a formidable force feared even by Pablo Escobar, but this was 50 years ago. The importance of portraying her story from the perspective of other women was something critics raved about extensively.
Legal disputes add another layer to this fascinating character. Michael Corleone Sepúlveda Blanco, Griselda’s only surviving son, took legal action against Netflix and Sofia Vergara personally for using his mother’s story without any compensation or attribution. This legal battle is still happening now and goes further to add a real-life dimension to the already fascinating story.
“Griselda” is available on Netflix now and does a stellar job of balancing entertainment and historical accuracy. Sofia Vergara’s performance, combined with the real and fictional elements, has audiences captivated and craving more. As viewers binge-watch this crime drama, they are left pondering the fine line between fiction and reality in the portrayal of one of the most intriguing female crime lords in history.
- “Netflix Viewers Are All Saying The Same Thing About Sofia Vergara After Watching New Series Inspired By True Story.” IGV. Annie Walton Doyle. January 29, 2024.
- “Griselda: What is fact and what is fiction?” Independent. Nicole Vassell. February 1, 2024.
- Screen Rant
- “Netflix’s Griselda: Which characters are based on real people and which are not?” BBC. Nafeesah Allen. January 29, 2024.